Killed in Action

In mid-May 1917 Valentine’s squadron was called to an exposed post in the British Expeditionary Force’s frontline opposite the Hindenburg line, north of St. Quentin.  During the early morning of 20th May, the Germans opened a heavy bombardment and Valentine was hit by a shell and killed instantly.  News of the tragedy reached the family mere days before Ian’s ninth birthday.  Valentine’s good friend Winston Churchill wrote his obituary in The Times, ‘He was most earnest and sincere in his desire to make things better for the great body of the people’.  A copy of the obituary, inscribed by Churchill hung in Ian’s bedroom throughout his life.

The Queen's Own Oxfordshire Hussars. Valentine Fleming (back row, far right) and Winston Churchill (centre).

The Queen’s Own Oxfordshire Hussars. Valentine Fleming (back row, far right) and Winston Churchill (centre).

‘As the war lengthens and intensifies and the extending lists appear, it seems as if one watched at night a well-loved city whose lights, which burn so bright, which burn so true, are extinguished in the distance in the darkness one by one.’

Winston Churchill

From the obituary of Valentine Fleming in The Times

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